Buried below the list of legends who have held the hour record are numerous riders who have tried but fallen short. On the day that Jens Voigt succeeded in setting the new UCI hour record, former American hour record holder Colby Pearce was feeling a bit conflicted about the feat.
It was bittersweet for Pearce to see this resurgence in interest in the hour record after he technically broke Ondrej Sosenka's 2005 mark last October, but it was before the new UCI hour record rules went into place so he was unable to bask in the type of glory that Voigt has enjoyed.
Pearce, now 42, first held the American hour record in 1995, covering 50.191km in Colorado Springs, on a 333m outdoor track at 6035 feet above sea level. His record was broken by Norm Alvis two years later, and in 2013 he attempted to get it back, but it was before the UCI relaxed the rules on equipment.
He raced back-to-back hours last October - first covering 49.8km with a full aerodynamic setup, and then a week later finishing 46.3km on a standard Athlete Hour ('Merckx') bike. Sosenka's mark, 49.7km, was set in the Athlete Hour category, while Voigt was able to contend for the record with a full aerodynamic set-up.
"It was a bit hard for me to watch, honestly, when I know I have been capable of similar times on the track and hardly anyone knows or cares, but such is life," Pearce said. "I am happy the UCI has done away with the obtuse regulations and rekindled interest in this event. Everyone is now anticipating the next great TT rider and their potential try at the record. It's truly a great event and so it's always good to watch others have the same passion."
Arguably one of the most experienced hour record racers, Pearce predicted Voigt could go slightly less than the 51.115km he actually covered, and he was impressed but not surprised by Voigt's result.
"I am not surprised at all. It was very close to the outcome I figured," Pearce told Cyclingnews. "I was prognosticating with Michael Creed the other day and I predicted he would ride 50.96km so I was just a bit shy of his final distance. It was a solid effort by Jens and he had a lot of support from Trek. After doing it three times myself, it made me a bit envious, it's quite an undertaking."
The UCI has tried to revive the hour record with the new rules, and Voigt's attempt, while impressive, is far below the races of Chris Boardman (56.375km), Tony Rominger (55.291km), Miguel Indurain (53.040km) or even Graeme Obree (51.596km).
Pearce thinks Voigt has room to improve in terms of technique.
"I thought it was interesting that his position became more stretched out, he looked like he held it very well and he was stable on the bike," he said. "It's a testament to how functional he is as an athlete, there are a lot of top guys who could not sustain that position. Many riders would be sliding forward on the saddle if they tried to ride like this but Jens was quite stable.
"He lost a bit of distance by not riding super low - on or below the black line - but for a guy who probably has not spent a ton of time on the track, he did quite well. I would estimate that he gave up perhaps 400m in distance on riding high on the banking (just my guess). Not only did he ride a larger diameter circle on every lap he was above the black in the corners, he gained a small amount of altitude climbing the banking, which counters the natural acceleration he would normally get in the corners."
Although Voigt had a specially modified Trek Speed Concept frame and two disc wheels, Pearce said he found his choice of helmet to be interesting, "as it did not have a large tail integrated. I have no doubt it was chosen for a reason so it must have been the fastest choice."
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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